New Web-based Atlas Shows Physician Shortage Areas

New physician shortage estimates released Sept. 30 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) are much worse than originally anticipated. Based on projections by the Center for Workforce Studies, the shortage of doctors across all specialties in the United States will quadruple by 2015. A new web-based map shows where the physician shortages exist as of 2008.

AAMC officials say the physician shortage is snowballing out of control due to increased medical needs from the baby boomer generation coming of age and the expansion of coverage by 2019 to 32 million uninsured Americans under the health system reform law, American Medical News reports.

Where exactly in the country are these physician shortages presently? The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Health Policy Research Institute launched the Surgery Workforce Atlas Oct. 5 during ACS’s 96th Annual Clinical Congress in Washington. 

The interactive map highlights shortages of surgeons and other physicians and shows the per capita levels for general surgeons, all surgical specialties combined, total physicians and primary care physicians by state and county throughout the United States, according to an ACS press release. You can also view county and state recent workforce trends, such as percentage gains and losses in the various workforces.

“The number of surgeons needed to meet population demand for care falls short by as much as 30 percent, with general surgeons in especially short supply in small communities,” said Thomas C. Ricketts, PhD, MPH, managing director of the ACS Health Policy Research Institute. “This website allows users to quickly identify the supply of surgeons in their county and compare it to all other counties in the U.S.”

For example, a quick look at the map shows 10 states, including Arizona, Nevada, Texas, and Utah, each have only 33-38 surgeons per 100,000 people, based on 2008 data.

ACS says it is already working on a second version of the atlas, which will feature all of the surgical subspecialties, overlay facilities such as hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), and offer visual displays using alternative geographic units including hospital referral regions.


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